Box Office: Ouija Delivers Cheap Horror Thrills, Takes Weekend With $20 Million

Anyone want to play a game of Global Thermal Nuclear War?

The dreaded family game night turned adaptation. For Universal, the same studio that gave us the dreadful Battleship, a bloated sci-fi action film that played more like Transformers on the high seas, it could have had another dud on its hands with Ouija. Yes, the game that is pronounced “wee-gee,” was originally intended to be an expensive McG-helmed horror-thriller. But then someone came to their senses (probably after seeing McG’s This Means War – a project that even Tom Hardy regrets) and decided to push it as low-budget with no stars. That’s the state of horror nowadays. As I told a theater manager over the weekend, “Make ’em cheap, market them to teens and watch the cash roll in.” With $20 million this weekend, how can you argue with the formula for success. Plus, it’s been thirty years since we last saw the game Ouija as the centerpiece for a horror movie (anybody remember Witchboard?).

Keanu Reeves is on the verge of a comeback. Last year it was his directorial debut Man of Tai Chi. This year it is the revenge flick John Wick. Supported by strong critical reviews with an aggregate rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, Wick, unfortunately, only grossed $14.1 million. For the star of action classics Speed and The Matrix, the film probably deserved better. Still, Reeves’ visibility has been limited in recent years; he has only made two true studio releases since 2007 (The Day the Earth Stood Still and 47 Ronin). While he may tell reporters he was bummed that he didn’t the Batman and Wolverine roles that would go to Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, the recently turned 50-year-old is back in the game and looking for some (more) action.

Holding steady in its second week is Brad Pitt’s Fury, only dropping 45.2%. Other Oscar hopeful, Gone Girl, continues to impress with some of the best audience holds of the year (this weekend it only dropped 36.6%) and with a fourth straight weekend of double-digit earnings it has doubled its production budget with $124 million in domestic earnings.

The Weinstein Company has November’s The Imitation Game as its big Oscar contender, but don’t overlook the distributor’s St. Vincent starring Bill Murray. A number of indies that expand to more markets have imploded rather than exploded this year, but this comedy is getting some great word-of-mouth buzz. It also helps that Murray delivers his best PR (post-Rushmore) performance to date. Expanding into 2,282 screens, Vincent grossed a strong $8 million.

Robert Downey’s Jr. The Judge is still hanging in the top 10 but with only $34 million after three weeks it’s safe to say that audiences aren’t keen on seeing Downey unless he’s wearing his Iron Man suit. Plus, how on earth did this courtroom drama cost $50 million? I’m sure Downey took is salary upright, but still. No way it should have cost that much. For an Indiana-set drama that’s actually filmed in Massachusetts it could have been made for half that budget.

In limited release, the Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour was the attention getter with 125k from five screens. That’s damn impressive for a documentary. Two films that I hope to review in detail soon that are also in limited release are Whiplash and Birdman. Sadly, while ‘lash has considerable buzz the audience just isn’t falling over each other to see it. In three weeks it has made $748k. Birdman, on the other hand, had one of the highest per-screen averages of 2014 when it opened on four screens and grossed $424k. This week it expanded to 50 screens and added $1.4 million. Comparatively, the weekend PSA was better than most of the top 10 PSA averages combined.

Upcoming we Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth reuniting for the thriller Before I Go to Sleep, the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring Nightcrawler and the 10th anniversary of Saw. Haven’t seen the first and I probably haven’t revisited Saw in like, er, ten years. But Nightcrawler is the pick of the week if only to see Gyllenhaal in a bat-shit crazy performance. It’s a film that I’ve called Network meets American Psycho so take that for what it’s worth.

01. Ouija — $20 million
02. John Wick — $14.15 million
03. Fury — $13 million ($46.05 million)
04. Gone Girl — $11.1 million ($124.1 million)
05. Book Of Life —$9.8 million ($29.9 million)
06. St. Vincent — $8.05 million ($9.1 million)
07. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day — $7.023 million ($45.5 million)
08. The Best of Me — $4.73 million ($17.6 million)
09. The Judge — $4.345 million ($34.3 million)
10. Dracula Untold — $4.302 ($48.3 million)

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